Your 1st for Philippine Defense

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The Philippine Navy commissions its 2nd Jose Rizal-class frigate!

The Philippine Navy welcomes BRP Antonio Luna (FF-151), its newest frigate!

The Philippine Navy selects Shaldag Mk. V for Fast Attack Interdiction Craft!

The DND has awarded the FAIC-M Acquisition Project to Israel Shipyards

The Philippine Air Force wants more Black Hawk helicopters!

The Philippine Air Force asks for more Black Hawks to allow the retirement of their Bell UH-1 Huey fleet

The Philippine Army orders the Sabrah Light Tank System from Israel!

Israel's Elbit Systems was declared the winner to supply light tanks to the PA

The Philippine Air Force receives full order of Hermes 900 and Hermes 450 UAVs!

All 9 Hermes 900 and 4 Hermes 450 MALE UAVs have been received by the PAF!

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Used Warships as Stop Gap Measures to Replace World War 2 Assets of the Philippine Navy

As part of its plans to improve and renew its fleet of ships at the fastest possible time, the Philippine Navy is embarking on the possible acquisition of used naval warships from friendly countries. These has been happening for some time now, starting with the acquisition of three Hamilton-class high endurance cutters from the US Coast Guard, and five Balikpapan-class heavy landing crafts from the Royal Australian Navy.

Recently, MaxDefense discussed that the Philippine Navy is planning to acquire a new fleet of Multi-Purpose Patrol Vessels which would eventually replace all World War 2-era warships of the fleet, while be able to conduct patrols even on offshore territorial and exclusive economic zone (EEZ) of the country. But because of time to plan, formulate, tender, award, and construct the new ships, it is expected that the first ships can only enter service with the Philippine Fleet by 2019 at the earliest.

With the need for new ships immediately needed, the Philippine Navy will have to adjust and acquire assets that can be used in the short-medium term to improve its capabilities, while also allowing to have more assets to train with as the Philippine Navy schedules the arrival of new assets in the next several years.

Aside from the Hamilton-class cutters from the US (which are now known collectively as the Del Pilar-class frigates), the other options are smaller in size but with comparable capabilities in some way or another. Those already made known to MaxDefense and clear for public knowledge will be the only ones discussed here.


Based on the Philippine Navy's own Sail Plan 2020, the organization intends to retire all warships from the World War 2-era by 2020. But by law, only when new assets to replace the old ones are available can the Navy retire their assets.

Originally the plan is to acquire brand new Multi-Purpose Patrol Vessels, which was among those new directions provided by the Armed Forces of the Philippines in line with the new policies of Pres. Rodrigo Roa Duterte.

As of 2017, MaxDefense was informed by its sources that the Philippine Navy has not yet made concrete moves to solidify its plan to acquire brand new patrol vessels, except for a formal offer made by Israel Shipyard last August 2016. wherein they proposed to sell an Offshore Patrol Vessel variant of their Sa'ar 72 design.

Even if the Philippine Navy approves the acquisition of a couple of ships, it would take around 3 years for them to receive the ships, which is too late if they intend to follow their plan of retiring all 9 WW2 warships currently in service by 2020.

Thus, the Philippine Navy has opened the possibilities of acquiring used but still capable warships from friendly countries to speed-up the retirement process, as this is the fastest option available to bring in newer ships into the fleet.

Philippine Navy's Parameters:

Based on the information and records obtained by MaxDefense, an analysis can be made to determine the parameters in which the Philippine Navy will be considering any proposal to acquire used warships from other countries.

First and foremost are the age and the general condition of the ship/s. The PN would like the ships to only require minimal refurbishing works for the hull and superstructure, as well as for the mechanical and electrical systems of the ship. The less time at drydock and less expenses, the better.

Another main consideration is cost. How much will the ship's overall cost be, including acquiring the ship itself, refurbishing and rehabilitation cost, replacement of obsolete or damaged systems, and logistics and support concerns. At this point, the PN has very limited funds that they can use for this, and is also facing funding problems for any other upgrade it wishes to conduct for these ships.

Time to bring to full operation is another factor, that is also related to the general condition of the ships, and the amount of money to be spent. The lesser the needed for dockwork means lesser costs too. The support of the vendor country's government is also important especially in providing the training with the vendor country's navy allows for ease of transfer at less time possible.

Another important factor is the presence of anti-submarine warfare capability, specifically more on having the detection capability using Sonar. These ships are expected to be training platforms too for personnel to be assigned on the PN's future frigate, which are equipped with anti-submarine warfare capabilities. Currently, it was made known to MaxDefense that the PN has almost nill ASW capability and experience to say off, with most of its officers and men previously rated for sonar and ASW already retired from the service for years.

The Philippine Navy is eyeing at least two ships as an initial requirement, with a follow-on third or even fourth unit being considered should funding become available.

Choices of the Philippine Navy:

Based on costs, it appears that there are only a few choices for the Philippine Navy to pick, even though there are many countries who appear to have excess warships that could be available for sale. Italy, for example, are selling their warships at a price way above the allocated budget of the PN, so their warships are out of the possible options.

So far, only 2 options were made known to MaxDefense as of late, although it is highly doubtful that there are any other options at the moment aside from these.

1. Joao Coutinho-class and Baptista de Andrade-class patrol corvettes from Portugal

Discussed on MaxDefense as early as December of last year, we reported that the Portuguese government has offered to sell some of their Joao Coutinho-class and Baptista de Andrade-class patrol corvettes to the Philippine Navy.

Both classes are retired, or being progressively retired from the Portuguese Navy, and will be available for transfer to any interested buyer very soon. In the Philippine context, both ship classes were inspected by officers from the Philippine Navy to determine their actual condition, and their viability for transfer. There are currently 3 Baptista de Andrade-class ships and at least 4 Joao Coutinho-class ships that are available according to MaxDefense sources. Both ship classes are not in service with the Portuguese Navy anymore, being retired a few years ago and are maintained in port while waiting for a buyer.

The Joao Countinho-class (top) and the Baptista de Andrade-class (above) were both evaluated by the Philippine Navy for suitability to their needs for patrol vessels that can immediately replace World War 2-era assets still used by the fleet.

Based on the reports from the Joint Visual Inspection team that were sent to Portugal, the Baptista de Andrade-class are in less favourable condition than the older Joao Coutinho-class ships, and the recommendation is to forego the Baptista de Andrade-class in favour of the Joao Coutinho-class.

The ships will need refurbishing and some repair work before the actual transfer to the Philippine Navy, should it proceed with the acquisition. Among those that will require overhaul and repair works include the hull, the diesel engines, several mechanical system, and the guns and weapons mount itself.

Other works need to be done including installing a new generator and power management systems, navigation radar system, and several other electrical and electronic systems that are already beyond their lifespans or are obsolete.

The offer made by the Portuguese government for the ships are reasonable enough, since it will also include the education and training of Philippine Navy crewmembers and maintenance teams, spare parts and logistics support, and billeting in Portugal. MaxDefense won't mention the amount, but we can guarantee that it is affordable for the Philippine Navy.

The helicopter landing deck on the Joao Coutinho-class, small as it seems, is still an added feature and will be sufficient enough to allow the ship to operate PN's AW-109 Power naval helicopters, as well as ship-launched drones that allows an increase in its visual surveillance range.

The Joao Coutinho-class have been in service with the Portuguese Navy since 1970, only a few years younger than the Hamilton-class cutters acquired from the US. They were designed in Portugal and built in Spain and Germany.

They are armed with mostly similar weapons systems as the Philippine Navy's World War 2 assets, including Mk. 33 twin 76mm guns, and Bofors L70 40mm twin AA guns.  The Philippine Navy has no problem operating and maintaining these weapons systems due to being familiar with them. The ships currently do not have any anti-submarine warfare system which were removed due to obsolescence and were not replaced.

The ships are powered by OEW Pielstick diesel engines, which is not new to the Philippine Navy either. The ships also do not possess advanced electronic machinery control systems, and any other advanced electronic systems that control much of the ship's operation. This means that there is nothing new for the Philippine Navy to learn much from.

The presence of a helicopter deck is also an added plus, which will allow the ship to limitedly operate PN aviation assets like the AW-109 Power naval helicopters that can increase the ship's capability.

In short, these ships are primarily newer replacements for the older World War 2-era ships, and are good force additions to a depleted fleet, and short-term replacements while new ships are being prepared for delivery to the Philippine Navy.

Based on the reports made by the PN JVI team, the ship hulls are being offered for free by the Portuguese government, and any other refurbishing, repair and rehabilitation work will be done in Portugal. The ships are found to still be good for use for at least 15 years, which complies to the procurement laws of the government which applies to military assets too. Should the Philippine Navy give a go-signal to acquire the ships by March 2017, they stand to bring these ships into active duty by 3rd or 4th quarter of 2017 at the earliest.

2. Pohang-class combat corvettes from South Korea

This appears to be our latest entry regarding the status of the offers made by South Korea for Pohang-class corvettes for the Philippine Navy.

As many MaxDefense readers already know, this class has been among the most talked-about among defense enthusiasts and navy officials, and was already made known to public as early as 2014. Previously it was also made known in several sources that the Philippine Navy will be getting the former ROKS Mokpo, a Flight II Pohang-class corvette retired from the Republic of Korea Navy some years ago.

As of the latest information received by MaxDefense, the former ROKS Mokpo is out of the running in the Philippine Navy, after the ship was evaluated by officials to be in very poor condition, and will not be feasible for refurbishing and rehabilitation back into service. It was also found to lack the anti-submarine warfare capability that the PN needs to train its personnel in preparation for the upcoming future frigates it will be receiving from Hyundai Heavy Industries. It was made known to MaxDefense that the former ROKS Mokpo is now being offered to other countries, which mentioned Peru as among the possible takers.

Instead, the Korean government has a renewed offering to the Philippines, which now involves the proposed transfer of at least three Flight III or newer Pohang-class corvettes, with an initial 2 units readily available for refurbishing works at any notice, and a third unit to be made available should the option be accepted by the Philippine Navy.

Based on these information alone, it appears that the ships being offered are already retired from service and are just awaiting for any eventuality. The Republic of Korea Navy's records mention that at least three Flight III ships were retired from service in the past few months, namely ROKS Gimcheon (PCC-761), ROKS Chungju (PCC-762) and ROKS Jinju (PCC-763). All others Flight III ships or newer are still in service with the ROKN but are also expected to be retired soon with the arrival of new FFX-2 frigates to replace them.

ROKS Jinju (PCC-763), a Pohang-class Flight III corvette of the South Korean Navy, was recently retired and is among those possibly offered to the Philippine Navy.
Photo credited to website.

These were later backed by information from MaxDefense sources, although it would be best not to be very specific, for now, on the ships being offered, as it might affect any discussions ongoing between the Philippine and South Korean governments.

The Flight III ships are not yet inspected by the Philippine Navy as of this writing, but it was disclosed by sources that the ships are in far better condition than the former ROKS Mokpo. The ships also have working ASW capability, although it was recommended that replacement of the systems be made in the long run. The ships won't be armed with missiles as many expect, but the ships can be easily be installed with better sensors, guidance, and weapons systems in the future. It is also expected that the ship's weapons and sensors systems will remain, although some will require replacement soon. It is still up to the PN's joint visual inspection team to submit a report and recommendation on their findings of the ship's overall condition, so nothing can be finalized for now.

It is strongly expected that the hulls itself will be offered to the Philippine Navy for free, but any refurbishing, repair and rehabilitation work will be paid for, and will be done in Korean shipyards and using Korean subsystems.

The Flight III Pohang-class are armed with two Oto Melara 76mm Compact naval gun, two Breda 40mm twin guns. It is also equipped with two triple trainable Mk. 32 lightweight torpedo launchers, which are expected to remain should the ship be transferred to the PN.

The ships are also powered by a LM2500 gas turbine, which is more powerful and newer than the Del Pilar-class' P&W FT4A gas turbines. Operating and maintaining this could be an issue, although it is expected that personnel with gas turbine ratings on the FT4A will be given the slot to train for the LM2500 since they already have the base knowledge needed.

They are built in the late 1980s and are far younger than many of the PN's major naval assets. It is expected that the PN will need more transition training to operate the Pohang-class compared to

Overall, the Pohang-class are much newer, more capable, and more advanced than the Joao Coutinho-class, and can fill-in a lot of gaps in the PN's capability. They are also more complicated that will require more attention in terms of preparation, training, and maintenance. These ships are not just good replacements for the World War 2-era assets of the PN, but can also be used as force multipliers to also bridge the PN to future advanced warships.

Note: MaxDefense has a previous blog entry discussing the entire Pohang-class, including the differences between Flights, and their fit and capabilities. You can access it on the link provided below:

"Overview on ROKN's Pohang-class Corvettes, and Transfer of 1 ship to the PN" - dated June 8, 2014.

The Pohang-class' twin 40mm guns and mount are something new to the Philippine Navy, but he mount apparently uses the same technology as the Oto Melara 76mm Compact gun already in service with the PN. 

Problems Faced by the Philippine Navy on the Proposals:

It was made known to MaxDefense that there are delays hampering the proposal of the Philippine Navy's JVI, which recommends the acquisition of the ships as a stop gap measure. According to sources, the recommendation is still stuck in the Philippine Navy due to a request by a certain high command official (which MaxDefense prefers not to disclose) for further analysis even though it was a very much obvious to not need such requirement. This is due to the fact that the ships are being compared to the much older, much harder to maintain World War 2-era ships.

It remains to be seen now if the Philippine Navy will get these requirements in the next weeks, before the recommendation can be forwarded to the Armed Forces of the Philippines GHQ, and to the Department of National Defense for funding request. This sickness of red tape and delays within the Philippine Navy continues to linger on, which is a surprise for MaxDefense considering the huge improvement strides made by the organization to improve itself compared to when yours truly is still with the service more than a decade ago.

Isn't it a no-brainer that the Joao Coutinho-class from the 1970s is a more practical choice compared to the likes of BRP Rajah Humabon (above) from the 1940s? Come on Philippine Navy.
Photo taken from US Navy.

The Korean offer is also not without problems, this time regarding the possibility of using the offer as a hedge to push the Philippine Navy to give them an edge on ongoing and future modernization projects.

The Koreans are known to use grant of excess defense articles to create new markets for their wares. This was shown when South Korea sold SSM-700K Haeseong C-Star anti-ship missiles to Colombia, after being promised to be granted a Donghae-class corvette. Even members of the AFP are expecting the Koreans to provide a "freebie" for the acquisition of FA-50PH Fighting Eagle aircraft from Korea Aerospace Industries.

If the offer proves to be something of a hedge in nature, it would not only be something that is difficult to approve, but will also mean the approval may likely affect other matters negatively with regards to the procurement laws and specified requirements. MaxDefense prefers that this offer by South Korea to have no strings attached on other projects, since the offer already benefits the Korean defense industry by having the ship refurbished in Korea, and paid for by the Philippine government.

While MaxDefense is not concluding anything yet regarding the revised Pohang-class offer from South Korea, but it is expected that the Philippine Navy stay true to it form, and allow compromise only without sacrificing anything.

MaxDefense's Recommendation:

Since the PN's JVI for the Joao Coutinho-class already was recommended for acquisition, MaxDefense supports this move. Based on price and availability alone, these are good additions to the ageing fleet, even as a short-term solution.

MaxDefense also recommends that the Philippine Navy immediately send visual inspection team to South Korea to check on the overall conditions of the latest Pohang-class ships offered to them. This would immediately allow them to decide, and not linger on a proposal that turns out to be impractical. If they find the ships not feasible for acquisition, it then further supports the acquisition of the Joao Coutinho-class, and allows the PN to look further in other markets for alternatives for the Pohang-class.

Should the PN find the revised offer acceptable, and strings are not attached, MaxDefense recommends their acquisition as well. Why? Because these ships are sure assets that can be obtained, compared to newer ships that remain as plans up to this day. The culture of planning in the AFP is a well-known fact among international and local defense suppliers and manufacturers, wherein the AFP, as whole, have a lot of good plans for its modernization, but fail miserably in implementation and actual acquisition.  The Pohangs, if found to be OK, can make sure that the PN has the necessary assets it needs even when the government fails to provide funding to order new ships, a reality compared to an aspired dream.

April 9, 2017:

We received information that another team from the Philippine Navy are scheduled to depart of Lisbon, Portugal very soon. They will be doing inspections on the Joao Coutinho-class and possibly the Baptista de Andrade-class ships as well. MaxDefense hopes that this inspection will finally give the Philippine Navy the answer it needs and finalize a decision if it is going to acquire the ships from Portugal or not. Delaying it further may not be good for the Philippine Navy and the Philippines as well, since Portugal might have some other plans for these ships if the PN is not really interested in getting them. Decisiveness is key.

More updates coming as we get more information from our sources.

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